Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Saturday’s Ohio State-Wisconsin game may have seemed too good to be true, but it wasn’t a dream.
Your memory is correct — the Buckeyes were indeed trailing the No.15-ranked Badgers, 29-26, with less than a minute to play.
Do you recall storming the field after the game to celebrate? Do you have vague memories of the clang of the Victory Bell reverberating throughout campus afterward?
It wasn’t your imagination. You were wide awake, and OSU (5-3, 2-2) had upset the Badgers, 33-29.
It was real.
The performance you witnessed from freshman quarterback Braxton Miller wasn’t a mirage either.
Just two weeks removed from a 1-of-4 passing performance, Miller completed 7-of-12 passes against the Badgers while also rushing for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
Miller’s first score came early in the third quarter with OSU trailing, 7-3.
Daniel “Boom” Herron rushed 75 yards on two carries to set up a first-and-goal for the Buckeyes, but Herron’s next three rushing attempts saw him come up short of the end zone. First-year OSU head coach elected to go for it fourth down, calling a fake hand off to Herron.
An audible groan went up from the 105,511 in attendance as Herron was swarmed by Wisconsin defenders, but Miller, the actual ball carrier, juked a defender and strolled into the end zone to put OSU up 10-7.
“It’s a confidence thing,” Fickell said of Miller’s performance after the game. “Confidence and momentum and belief is a big part of it. I think we’ll still see him continue to grow and have a lot abilities to throw it as well.”
Miller continued to gain momentum as the game progressed.
The Buckeyes scored 17 points in the third quarter — OSU junior back Jordan Hall scored on a 2-yard touchdown run — and a 22-yard, fourth-quarter field goal by sophomore kicker Drew Basil had OSU in front, 20-14 with 10:39 remaining.
With less than five minutes to play in the game, Miller broke a 44-yard run and scored to put OSU up, 26-14.
“When you’re a freshman and you don’t know everything, you have to play with your instincts, and that’s what (Miller) has been doing,” senior center Michael Brewster said. “He finally took one to the house, which I’ve been waiting for him to do. I’m just really proud of him.”
Then came Wisconsin’s comeback, a part of the game which some OSU fans probably wished was a bad dream they could awake from.
Badgers’ senior quarterback Russell Wilson connected with sophomore receiver Jared Abbrederis twice in the final four minutes of the game to put Wisconsin up, 29-26. The second of Abbrederis’ catches came with 1:18 remaining in the game.
“It was a little bit of blown coverage,” Fickell said of the Badgers’ go-ahead score.
The 105,511 fans in attendance — the seventh-largest turnout for a home OSU football game — went silent. Some few fans even began to head to the exits.
OSU freshman quarterback had one drive left to respond to the favored, nationally ranked Badgers.
On first-and-10 from Wisconsin’s 40-yard line, Miller rolled to the right of the pocket and appeared to be sideline bound on a scramble.
“There was a little break down and the edge was clear,” Brewster said of Miller’s run out of the pocket.
Instead of rushing, Miller threw to the end zone where classmate and receiver Devin Smith waited for the ball to fall into his arms.
“It (the ball) took forever,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘man, hurry up and drop. Hurry up and drop.'”
Smith made the catch and rolled on his back, maintaining control of the ball all the while and restoring the Buckeyes’ lead, 33-29, in unprecedented fashion.
Miller said he didn’t see if Smith made the catch right away.
“I was hoping he caught it. I was hoping,” Miller said. “”Oh my god, I was like ‘Dang.’ It took forever, though, but I’m glad he caught it and we got a victory.”
Wisconsin had one drive left to respond, though.
Fickell said the defense needed to regroup as the Badgers nearly mounted a successful comeback attempt in the final seconds of the game.
“We had to make sure that we were staying focused,” Fickell said. “The game’s never over. We saw it last week in their game against Michigan State. We stuck with what we did.”
OSU held Wisconsin (6-2, 2-2) off in the remaining 20 seconds — senior linebacker Andrew Sweat clipped Wilson’s arm as he went to throw and the pass fell incomplete to end the game.
The dream became reality.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brewster said. “This is a group of guys that are never going to stop fighting. It’s about time we caught a break because these guys have fought like hell for weeks.”
The normally stoic Fickell enjoyed some laughs in his post-game press conference and lauded his team’s effort on the night.
“I don’t know when the last time that I felt that happy,” Fickell said with as wide a smile as he’s cracked all season. “I’m so happy for these guys (the team).”
Miller, who may have come of age in Saturday’s game, agreed, saying, “A victory is a victory, baby.”
The Buckeyes, which have now upset then-ranked Illinois and Wisconsin in their last two games, will host Indiana next Saturday at noon as Big Ten play continues.